Dear Harding Academy Community,
I hope you all are enjoying the start to summer. Over the course of the 2017-18 school year I communicated that we were in the process of undergoing a security audit of the school.
As a reminder, we initiated a search for a security firm to complete a comprehensive security audit in December of 2017. After an in-depth search, we hired Invictus Consulting, LLC to lead this process. Invictus Consulting, LLC was charged with reviewing our campus policies and procedures and making a series of recommendations to help further enhance our security. They spent three days and two nights on campus and in May we received the report. The consultants were impressed with the existing security measures in place, but as with any institution, they identified areas where the school could further improve.
Over the course of the last few weeks, we outlined the work to be done in the near, middle, and long terms, as well as reported to the Board the findings of the report. I would like to update you on where we are as a result of the report and the Board conversations surrounding it.
The first, and most important, recommendation from the report was to hire a Director of Security. We have already begun the search process for this individual and it is our goal to have this person in place by the start of the 2018-19 school year. It is very important to us that this person be a highly visible and comforting presence on our campus for our students, most importantly, but also our teachers, staff, and parents as well. Knowing that, we will be diligent in our process to make sure we find the right fit culturally, without sacrificing the experience, training, and skill sets needed for this new position.
In addition, the consultants recommended the Director of Security be armed. This recommendation was specifically discussed and adopted by the Board at our recent Board retreat. This Director of Security will report directly to me and will be a member of our Leadership Team. They will not only be a visible deterrent, but also tasked with leading the implementation of the recommendations from the security audit, acting as liaison with local law enforcement, and thinking strategically around the safety of our learning community.
As a school that prides itself on being a welcoming and inclusive learning community, we have left the main lobby door open for our visitors and prospective parents, while keeping access to the school areas locked via card access. We are now locking that front lobby door at all times. As our main entrance, we will be taking a number of steps to secure that area and enhance our visitor management system. In addition to locking the front lobby doors at all times, these steps include:
Renovating the front administrative building lobby, changing the receptionist’s desk orientation so that there is a clear line of sight to the front doors. This summer, while the renovation is underway, we will be temporarily moving our entrance to the first grade lobby to the left of the main entrance as you are facing the administration building. We appreciate your patience as we work through these capital upgrades.
Installing a video intercom system at the administrative building and the middle school. Both will be tied into a broader operations console that will be used to vet any visitors prior to granting access.
Instituting an integrated visitor management system. Once visitors enter into the administration building lobby or the middle school, and should they need to go to a classroom or child’s locker, for example, they will be required to sign in via a new integrated visitor management system that will scan state-issued identification, providing instant background checks against various databases and creating a record of each visitor. Visitors will then receive a sticker with their image on it as their name tag.
ACCESS CONTROL, CAMERAS, AND ALARMS
We are in the process of upgrading and integrating all of our door lock systems, cameras, and various alarm systems, so they can be viewed, recorded, and reviewed from one main operating console. Overseen by the Director of Security and supported by the Director of Information Systems, this system will continue to be top of the line. One key component of this is re-educating our community members that we can only enter buildings through our main lobbies. We will be emphasizing to our faculty, staff, and students that we are not to keep doors propped open, nor are we to open doors for visitors. I appreciate your understanding and cooperation here.
As I mentioned in my earlier communications regarding preparedness, we have already added an extra day to our August in-service meeting dedicated to the crisis plan and emergency preparedness. One of the recommendations was to conduct a four-hour training on emergency response to active shooter events. In addition to our new Director of Security, Invictus Consulting, LLC will be providing that training during that extra August in-service day.
We will be installing bollards along the depot between the middle school and PreK/Pursuit buildings.
We will be upgrading our lighting, especially in the front of the school.
We are in the process of streamlining and enhancing our mass notification system.
As we move down this road, I appreciate your support and understanding as we work to make sure our campus is as safe as we can possibly make it. I will be regularly updating you all as procedures and policies will change as a result of this security audit. Please enjoy your summer and we will see you soon!